MATTHEW LAMBERT Agri News
HOUSTON, Minnesota (AP) – When you arrive at the Buffalo Gal property in Houston, it’s hard to miss the one-ton bison standing on the left side of the road. However, to the right, on the side of the hill, just below the chapel, is a tomb.
In this grave is Cody, the namesake of the bison on the left side of the road named Cody Two.
Cody was almost 20 when he died, a death that devastated owner Mike Fogel, who had treated Cody like a pet, raising him like a calf inside the house. The two Cody’s, he said, behaved like a dog.
At Buffalo Gal, they sell a variety of unique meats – different cuts of bison, Scottish Highlander, elk, lamb, yak, and wild boar. Buffalo Gal is the last farm in Minnesota to raise wild boars.
Today, Buffalo Gal is also home to a camel and a multitude of peacocks roam the grounds. But Fogel started the operation with a single bison in Wisconsin in 1976.
Slowly, Fogel and his company, previously named Fogel’s Buffalo Basin, gained a reputation, even being part of a Playboy magazine article on exotic meats.
Once during a visit to Denver, Fogel saw a man riding a bison in a rodeo. After the rodeo, Fogel approached the man, hoping to learn more about how to tame the bison enough to ride them.
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“He said, ‘No you can’t do it,’” Fogel said. But Fogel would not be discouraged.
Shortly after the Playboy article, Fogel met a wealthy man who was looking for someone who shares his enthusiasm for the bison. He found Fogel, who traveled to Montana to supervise a herd of 650 bison on the man’s 60,000-acre farm.
After four years on the farm and the owner’s passing, Fogel moved to his current home in Houston.
Soon Cody was trained and ready, and Fogel began walking him in parades and attended the Minnesota State Fair, where a news channel featured him.
Fogel quickly got a call from Tig Productions, a production company owned by actor Kevin Costner. The company wanted to know if Cody would be interested in staring in “Dances with Wolves,” the eventual winner of seven Oscars in 1991.
In truth, Fogel had no idea if Cody could stand still on set. But he decided to give it a try anyway. Ultimately, Cody was a natural.
From there, Cody and Cody Two would be in movies and commercials, as well as many runway shows.
While the two Cody appear to be tame, Fogel said they should be treated like wild animals that could do serious damage.
“They’re very aggressive, especially when you put them in a corner,” Fogel said. “When you start pushing them and confining them, you have to have good facilities. They can jump, they are very powerful, they are very fast. They look slow … they aren’t.
Between the Houston farm and the Wisconsin farm run by one of his sons, the Fogels supervise 125 bison, including a herd of white bison in Wisconsin.
Lately, Fogel has been reflecting on his operation and the life he has built for himself.
Last year, a team of documentaries from “Barcroft Animals”, a British television show, interviewed people around the world who are raising potentially dangerous animals like bears, tigers and bison.
The team filmed for four days and eventually Fogel got an answer as to why he is raising potentially lethal animals.
“I’ve been thinking about Cody over the years and all the experiences and what he’s done,” Fogel said, voice broken and tears in his eyes. “Around here, it’s all Cody… because of him, that’s where I get to where I really am.”
Although the bison didn’t grow up around their family, they eventually became a part of it, he said.
“I could see why I’m doing it. It brought the family and everyone together, ”Fogel said.
Yet when asked if he would recommend raising bison the way he did, Fogel repeated the Denver man’s words: “Forget it.”